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The Dunes pass through and speed analysis study results in lowered speed limit

By Staff | Jan 8, 2015

Passer throughs and residents will each have to slow down when driving on Sand Castle and Albatross Roads, after the Sanibel City Council passed a motion 5-0 to lower the current speed limit of 30 miles per hour to 20 miles per hour during their monthly meeting Jan. 6.

The lowering of the speed limit is the result of The Dunes Pass Through and Speed Analysis, conducted by Johnson Engineering of Fort Myers. The decrease in the speed limit is the first tier of a two-tier model which resulted from the study, which was conducted from March 11-28 of 2014.

The second tier would include installing four seasonal speed humps, placed on strategically straight away points on each road, if the signage of the decreased speed limit appears not to be working.

Mayor Kevin Ruane also suggested for the City Council to revisit the lowering of the speed limit during their March meeting, to start gauging the residents’ feedback on the move.

The data collected was from Dixie Beach Boulevard northbound, Albatross Road eastbound, Sand Castle Road south and Bailey Road south.

According to the The City of Sanibel’s document released to the public, the reason for the study was raised by the “residents’ concern that increased peak hour vehicular volume and speed, as a result of off island commuter traffic by-passing

congestion, through The Dunes community was adversely impacting the safety of both pedestrians and bicyclists.

“In order to validate these claims, the traffic patterns within The Dunes

residential community and the surrounding roadway network were quantified and analyzed during the 2014 peak season.”

The data collected included traffic volumes, speed and cut through drivers, which was taken by recording license plates of when they entered and exited in a certain amount of time. The study also included input from residents, either by a survey or from an open house, which was held April 29.

“We had 142 people who responded (out of 377 who live in The Dunes), which is a high turnout,” said Ryan Bell of Johnson Engineering, who made the presentation to the City Council.

It was determined during the time of the study, that 62-percent of the drivers were passerby, while 38-percent were residents.

It was discovered during the study, on Albatross Road eastbound, that 26-percent drivers exceeded the speed limit from 2-4 p.m. and 30-percent sped over the limit from 4-6 p.m.

On Sand Castle Road (south leg) eastbound, 34-percent drove over the speed limit from 2-4 p.m. and 40-percent did so from 4-6 p.m.

The survey mailed to Dune residents also showed the main concerns was for the City to take steps to lower the speed of vehicles within the Dunes and to lower the number of pass-through vehicles.

The recommendations resulting from the study by Johnson Engineering came in two tiers: The first reducing the speed limit of Albatross and Sand Castle Roads to 20 miles per hour and to install the appropriate signage.

The second tier is to install four seasonal removable speed humps to help reduce the speed of drivers.

“Statistics don’t lie, these recommendations make sense,” said Vice-Mayor Doug Congress.

In a correspondence with the City regarding the study, Dunes resident Joseph Smaha agreed a reduction in the speed limit was viable and should be adhered by both residents and passer through drivers.

“The cars are traveling way too fast and the drivers seem to always be in a hurry, but I believe it is the very residents complaining about the increase traffic during season that I witness driving fast over the summer months in addition to the bypass drivers,” Smaha wrote. “Therefore I support the recommendations of lowering the speed limits especially around the dangerous curve portion of the roads.”

The City Council voted 5-0 to lower the speed limit to 20 miles per hour with the appropriate signage, with the ability to activate tier two of installing speed humps in time, if the new speed limit is not being followed by drivers.

Several residents at the meeting also voiced their concern of more law enforcement in the area during the peak time of 4-6 p.m.

In an email to the City, Dunes residents Dr. Michael and Theresa Baldwin agreed with the reduction of the speed limit, but also wanted more enforcement of it during the peak times.

“Although the study appears to be both professional and thorough, it seems to us

that the contractor has missed one critically important issue in his findings and

recommendations that of enforcement. We stand to be corrected, but

neither of us can recall witnessing police enforcement of current speed limits

within the subdivision.

“Although we recognize that daily enforcement during periods of high traffic volume may be impractical, we nevertheless believe that routine periodic enforcement (such as currently occurs on San-Cap Road) would serve to discourage those who routinely choose The Dunes as an alternate route off the island from speeding through the subdivision.

“We are skeptical that a reduction in speed limits, as recommended by Johnson, is going to be any more effective is mitigating the problem without enforcement being

an essential added component of the solution.”

Mayor Ruane said with only three patrol vehicles on the island, it would be impractical to commit one-third of the force to just one area on a regular basis.

Currently, a speeding ticket will cost one $161 by driving five miles per hour over the limit, but it can be as high as $500, depending on the speed, as well as court costs.

The estimated cost of adding 11 new 20 mile per hour signage, while taking down three 30 mile per hour signs, is $3,600. The tier two improvements of adding speed humps, along with signage, will be $24,800.

“We will continue to monitor this and will consider having it on the agenda in March for more feedback,” Mayor Ruane said. “We want to make sure we get this right.”